Featured affiliated academy: BJJ North, Iceland

BJJ North, Iceland

Where is the gym located?
Húsavík, Iceland. It’s a small town with a population of 2500 people. The closest big town/city is Akureyri.

How many people train there?
Around 25 people, which makes 1% of the population of Húsavík.

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
It has grown on average by 5-10 people a year. During the summer we see an increase in members, as well as some people who move into town just for the season.

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training?
The practitioners are white-purple. The coaches are both brown belts.

When did BJJ North, Iceland open?
Early 2021, just in time for Covid closures.

Some facts about you:

Name: Andri Dan Traustason
Age: 32
Belt: Brown
Profession: CFO
Years in BJJ: 15 (with a few years’ break)
Other martial arts: Dabbled in kickboxing years ago
Currently living in: Húsavík
Originally from: Húsavík

Name: Kristján Gunnar Óskarsson
Age: 35
Belt: Brown
Profession: Psychologist
Years in BJJ: Almost 9
Other martial arts: No
Currently living in: Húsavík
Originally from: Húsavík

Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
Both of us moved back to Húsavík a few years ago, after living elsewhere for several years to pursue higher education and work. After moving back to town, we wanted to start a club both to introduce other people to the sport, and frankly for an opportunity to train ourselves.

Within a few months, a decent amount of mats had been bought, a room in the town’s gymnasium was booked, and the first beginner’s course was advertised. From that point onwards, the club has kept growing. We have now moved the club to a new space, built a subframe under the mats, and grown the overall mat area.

Tell us about the people that train in the gym – who are they?
It is a diverse group of people, aged 16-48, from several nationalities and backgrounds. Most are hobbyists, but there are a few competitive practitioners that have gotten podium finishes in tournaments, most recently in the last Icelandic National Championship.

Why do they train in BJJ North, Iceland?
Aside from their passion for BJJ and interest in improving their skills, they train for their health, wellbeing, and entertainment.

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
Since the club is run on a volunteer basis, the classical issues of funding etc. are less important for us than many other clubs. In our case, the issues are usually related to the specific circumstances of the club. For instance, the diversity of the practitioners is of immense value for the club, but it also brings certain challenges. Since we have a relatively small group but a large spread in technical capacity (white to purple), it can be challenging to set up classes in a way that benefits everyone.

How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
The number of practitioners has grown a lot since the club was founded, but the growth has tapered off now as the group has become more established. We currently only have classes for adults, but this is likely to change soon. Later this year, the club will start offering classes for children and teenagers, which will boost our numbers again.

Having said that, we are happy with the reach of the club. A large percentage of the adult population of the town (≈2-4%) either currently trains with the club or has given a beginner’s course a try, so we are happy with how the sport has spread within the town in just a few years. Assuming we manage to maintain some growth, BJJ will become one of the biggest sports in the area soon.

What’s the best thing about BJJ North, Iceland?
How personal and close-nit it is. Everyone is welcome so long as they treat others with respect.

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
Húsavík is very well placed as a hub for sightseeing in the area. The town is located on the shore of Skjálfandi Bay, which is world renowned for its whale population and whale watching. So much so that it was recently named a Hope Spot by Mission Blue. Additionally, the town is within a short driving distance of many amazing nature spots, including Dettifoss (UNESCO site and Europe’s most powerful waterfall), Mývatn, and geothermal hot spots.

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Thanks for sharing! If you’d like to visit BJJ North, Iceland you can contact them here.

Featured Traveller: Baloo Peinkofer – BJJ Globetrotters

Baloo Peinkofer BJJ

Age: 29

Belt: Brown

Profession: Manager for the municipal department for roads and parks

How many years in BJJ: 11 (although the Covid years make this sound weird)

Other martial arts: I’ve done a few years of judo, and during my first year of BJJ I was lucky enough to have an Iranian family where the uncle taught freestyle wrestling move to my town. He only spoke Persian except for when he told you your technique was off, but you can’t really be picky when it comes to freestyle as a European.

Where do you live: My last residence was a small village called Kuivakangas outside of Övertorneå. It’s on the Swedish side of the border with Finland, and pretty much smack dab on the Arctic Circle.

Where are you from: I was born in Germany, but we moved to the south of Sweden when I was three years old as my parents had bought a house in the middle of the Scandinavian woods.

Other fun or curious information you would like to share: Yeah, my name really is Baloo. Just in case that wasn’t unique enough, Falco, the name of the 80s pop artist, takes up some space in my passport as well.

Baloo Peinkofer – BJJ Globetrotters

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
Originally my parents. They did more during their early 20s than many people do in a lifetime. The amount of chutzpah it takes for a lot of their travels (some of which was with a small kid) is something I can only hope to exhibit some day.

I never got around to travel during my 20s. I spent all my time either training or studying. Then I kind of hit a wall. My studies weren’t going anywhere, and Covid put the BJJ academy in a coma. So I moved north, met my current girlfriend who already had plans to travel, and after roughly two years of working and saving up, we went for it.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
I’m currently writing this in Singapore, where we arrived after island-hopping through Thailand and travelling southwards along the west coast of Malaysia. On the 6th we’ll leave for Cebu, Philippines. Beyond that, we’re looking to see as much as possible of southeast Asia. Thereafter, we’ll assess the situation, see where we are budget-wise, and what we feel like. Provided the circumstances are right, we’ll most likely head for South America.

Baloo Peinkofer – BJJ Globetrotters

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
Meeting people, eating new food, and seeing new things. Also, there seems to be a certain element of randomness that comes with travel, and it can lead to some surreal experiences.

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
When it comes to training I’ve been unlucky so far. I caught ringworm on my final session at home, and it’s been a stubborn one. Thus, unfortunately I haven’t been able to train yet. Still, there have been some cool experiences that stand out.

For one, a friend of mine recently bought a traditional wooden Malay sailboat for one euro (long story) and he is sailing it back from Langkawi, Malaysia to Sweden at the end of the summer. We got the chance to spend a couple of days on the ship, help out, and just get a glimpse of everyday life at sea.

Another, rather surreal experience was when we went to what turned out to be a sex toy shop in Singapore (granted, there was the neon sign saying “Pow Pow” but you couldn’t really see in, and we had to know for sure). The lady working was immensely helpful but spoke no English, so she just walked after us explaining via Google Translate what everything was for and did. We didn’t buy anything.

On another, more general and serious note, I have friends spread out over several countries and cities. That is something I am incredibly thankful for.

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
The vast array of stuff you can get at markets in bigger cities. More than half my packing list could probably have been covered with half a day in Bangkok’s Chinatown. It definitely would have been cheaper as well.

Baloo Peinkofer – BJJ Globetrotters

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
Yes, we try to keep costs down and extend our travels as long as possible. That being said, you don’t want to limit yourself to the point where there isn’t much to look back on afterwards.

Not being too picky about accommodation, choosing street food hawkers over restaurants, going with the slower travel options (like busses or ferries) instead of flying gets you pretty far. Also, don’t be like me and stay four nights in Singapore. There is no reason unless you really want to drain your wallet.

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
It sounds cliché, but just go for it. You can spend so much time planning, looking things up, trying to puzzle together the perfect route. In the end though you have to buy the ticket and take the ride. Don’t overthink things, in other words.

Thank you to Baloo Peinkofer – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!

Featured Camp Instructor: Joshua Macri – BJJ Globetrotters

Joshua Macri BJJ

Joshua Macri – BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 40
Belt: Black
Profession: BJJ Instructor

Started training (year): 2006
City/country: Weaverville, NC USA

 

Main achievements in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

The things I’m most proud of in my BJJ career are related to teaching.  I ran a huge Jiu Jitsu school for 6 years where I was able to start teaching kids and helping them love BJJ.  I’m most proud of having started my own school after that and building a gym culture I really enjoy.  I suppose it’s notable that I lived in the closet of a BJJ school for 3 years.  I haven’t really done anything super flashy and that’s not really my style.  I just love that I’ve done something cool for 18 years and met a lot of awesome people along the way. 

 

 

Which Globetrotters camps have you attended:

I have attended USA Camp 3 times, Arizona Camp twice, Beach Camp, Zen Camp, and Winter Camp.  USA Camp is my favorite and Winter Camp is a close second.  All the camps are great but I like when we all stay in the same place.

 

Which camp has been your favorite so far?

USA Camp is my favorite and Winter Camp is a close second.  All the camps are great but I like when we all stay in the same place.

Joshua Macri – BJJ Globetrotters Winter Camp

 

Favorite stories/moments from the camps?

My favorite story from USA Camp is actually really tame compared to the camp.  Jay Pages sat with us all through our lobster dinner and we were just spraying lobster juice everywhere.  Jay just casually says “yea I am deathly allergic to shellfish” and then just keeps hanging out.  I was pretty sure I had found my people.  

  My favorite story from Winter  Camp was when a legion of middle aged people descended upon an Austrian dance club.  All the kids were basically well behaved and having a nice time and then we all showed up drunk.  Next thing you know there are mostly naked old guys hanging from the ceiling and crowd surfing for no apparent reason.  I was found wandering around in my t shirt trying to figure out where the hostile was.  Good times. 

 

The best part of every camp is the friends you make.  I’m writing this from the airport on my way to visit Angel who I met at USA camp.  My traveling companion is Frederik, a Swede I met in Arizona and then again in Parnu.  I’ve made lifelong friends at these camps and that’s the wildest story by far. 

Joshua Macri – BJJ Globetrotters camp

Your favorite class/classes to teach at camp? 

My favorite classes to teach so far have been Creativity in Submissions and Arm Drag Hub.  It’s my goal to teach different stuff each time so every class feels like my favorite.

 

Anything else you want to add to your profile:

 I love visitors from globetrotters at my gym.  If you are a coach then please come out and have a seminar.  If you are a student then please come visit.  We will train hard and go see some pretty things in the NC mountains. 

***

Joshua Macri – BJJ Globetrotters instructor

Featured Camp Instructor: Robin Javorek – BJJ Globetrotters

Robin Javorek BJJ

Robin Javorek – BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 44
Belt: Black belt
Profession:  Gym owner (former teacher PE and math)

Started training (year): BJJ in 2009, but martial arts in 1987 (with judo)
City/country: Frýdek-Místek, Czech Republic

 

Main achievements in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

My main achievement wasn’t in competition. It was establish my own team and next 10 affiliates gym in 10 different cities.

 

 

Which Globetrotters camps have you attended:

Caribbean (2019, 2023, 2024), Iceland (2022), Zen (2022), Pärnu 2023, Winter (2024)

 

Which camp has been your favorite so far?

Caribbean

Robin Javorek – BJJ Globetrotters Caribbean Camp

 

Favorite stories/moments from the camps?

In almost every camp I’ve made a strong friendship with someone. We are still in contact. For me this is one of the best think in jiujitsu – people around it.

Your favorite class/classes to teach at camp? 

Steal the Soul aka Kesa Gatame. I’ve taught it 3 times. I love it because this position is rare in BJJ and underestimated.

 

Anything else you want to add to your profile: Jiu-Jitsu is not about fighting. This is just medium for connecting people.

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Robin Javorek – BJJ Globetrotters instructor

Featured affiliated academy: Stadium MMA, Florida

Stadium MMA, Florida

Where is the gym located?
We are located in Port Orange, Florida, the city right next to the world famous Daytona Beach.

How many people train there?
We currently have 45 consistent members training with us.

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
The gym is growing, we add around 10 new members a month.

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training?
We have all skill levels training here, from “never stepped on the mats” white belts to black belts.

When did Stadium MMA, Florida open?
I opened the gym two years ago this month (March).

Some facts about you:

Name: Kelly Green
Age: 49
Belt: Brown
Profession: Gym owner
Years in BJJ: 14
Other martial arts: Besides BJJ I also have trained Muay Thai in combination with MMA since day 1
Currently living in: Port Orange, Florida, USA
Originally from: Rochester, New York

 

Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
I had moved to Thailand to live and train permanently, and was back visiting my sister to get a new visa. She asked me to stay for a few months and then we got the Covid shutdown. This threw a wrench in my living in Thailand, and when I was fed up with cancelled flights and regulations changing daily I decided to move back to Florida where I had lived many years ago. I wanted to share all that I learned training at Wand Fight Team in Las Vegas and my time living and training in Thailand. I flew down to Florida for a week and found the location to open my gym.

Tell us about the people that train in Stadium MMA, Florida – who are they?
The students are from all walks of life, like most of the gyms. We definitely see more of the very new to combat sports type of people. We pride ourselves on being a place without cliques and where everyone feels confident and welcome.

Why do they train?
The people who train at Stadium MMA are just like all of us. They all train for their own reasons, from getting in better shape, mental well being, and some to test themselves and compete in combat sports.

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
The biggest hurdle in running a BJJ gym is the same as any business that has competition – making yourself stand apart from the rest.

 

How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
BJJ in our area will continue growing, and we hope that anyone with interest will give it a shot and find a spot in the perfect gym.

What’s the best thing about Stadium MMA, Florida?
The best thing about our gym would be our students and the acceptance of anyone with an interest in giving training a shot, no matter what their personal reasons are. Everyone is welcome here.

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
We are in Florida, so the beach of course! We’re also within an hour or so of all the theme parks and the Space Centre. There’s tons of stuff to do in the area.

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Thanks for sharing! If you’d like to visit Stadium MMA, Florida you can contact them here.

Featured Traveller: Josh Collins – BJJ Globetrotters

Josh Collins - BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 27

Belt: Blue (awarded in November)

Profession: Freelance photographer

How many years in BJJ: Two years in May

Other martial arts: None

Where do you live: Bristol, UK

Where are you from: Bristol, UK

Other fun or curious information you would like to share: I’m a freelance photographer, and most of what I photograph is live music, concerts and events. It’s really fun doing what I do, but I would love to widen my portfolio by photographing more subject matter such as BJJ. I follow Attack The Back on Instagram and get inspired by the photography that he captures at BJJ comps and events all over the world!

Aside from BJJ, I’m an avid cyclist. I live in a city, riding hard and fast on my fixed gear. Weaving through traffic and paying lots of attention to road laws, regulations and traffic lights… I used to skateboard a lot more, but then I broke my arm, had a metal plate inserted to fix it, lost confidence, and was never able to get back to the standard that I had and wanted. Cycling and BJJ felt more rewarding than falling over hundreds of times. I found them both to be more rewarding, as I feel like I have and still am progressing more.

Josh Collins – BJJ Globetrotters

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
Travelling is something I’ve always wanted to do. Luckily for me so does my partner, so it was a natural thing for us both to save up money and want to do it together. We both want to see the world, and for us there seemed like no better way than to do it together.

In terms of my whole life BJJ is still a relatively new thing for me, but it has become a huge part of my life very quickly. If I didn’t train while I was travelling, I feel like I would miss my gym, my fellow grapplers, and lose some of my ability as a grappler. In addition, through my gym back home I’ve met people that have travelled and trained. They recommended doing it because you can learn so much from different instructors, gyms, and sparring partners.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
For a while my partner and I have been saving to go travelling. Cambodia has always been a place we’ve wanted to go because we’re interested in the history and culture of the country. We are travelling through South East Asia. So far we’ve spent a month in Thailand and are currently in Laos. After that we’ll be making our way through Cambodia into the south of Vietnam and flying home from the north.

Josh Collins – BJJ Globetrotters

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
While studying at university and for a few years afterwards I worked as a Chef. Through that I developed a love for food and lots of different cuisines. I enjoy trying new foods, then attempting to make them myself back in the UK and learning how to recreate them.

Experiencing new (to me) cultures is amazing, seeing how people live their lives on the other side of the world. Coming from the UK the routine is wake up, go to work for most of the day, go train, shower, eat, sleep and repeat. It’s great to break out of that and spend more time learning.

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
I’ve met so many great people that have shared their knowledge with me. We might not speak the same language, but sharing the same love for grappling allows us to communicate regardless. Visiting different gyms has opened me up to new ways of training, learning, and even teaching. I didn’t know I was capable of teaching BJJ, as I still feel like a beginner. While travelling, I’ve been able to share the techniques I feel confident in and see the results when others execute them.

It’s a small world, you might meet someone that knows someone that you know.

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
Discovering how much I am interested in history and how long I can spend in a museum, or talking to someone and finding out more about them. In Chiang Mai, whilst in a temple, I spoke with a monk for about 2 hours. We had a really organic conversation where we both enlightened one another and shared stories of each of our countries and cultures. Nop, the monk, asked me “If you could choose an animal to describe yourself what would you pick?” I said a heron, because I like the idea of flying and seeing things from a different perspective. Plus herons probably have the longest legs for a bird, so they’re most likely to ride a bike.

Also how friendly people are and can be, whether it’s the BJJ community or not. I was at a gym and when we were leaving someone I sparred with offered me a lift back to my hostel on the back of his moped. Thank you Harry if you read this!

Josh Collins – BJJ Globetrotters

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
I’m definitely a budget traveller.

  1. Save up as much as you can within your means before you leave.
  2. Stay in hostels. You might meet more people this way too. I’ve stayed in a few cheap hotels too, and as long as you have a bed, a mosquito net, and running water you don’t really need anything else. Have a look around for options you can afford.
  3. Eat local and street food. Ask hotels and other travellers for recommendations.
  4. Use public transport and local travel agencies. When booking travel between cities/countries I found it best to go to the travel agents and book in person rather than online. I won’t name names, but I used a very popular online service and ended up never being picked up from my accommodation. I missed all my connections and in turn two days worth of accommodation to and from the Thai-Laos border.

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?

  1. First off I’d like to repeat the advice Professor Mario Saeed back at Trojan Free Fighters Bristol said to me before I left: Be open minded, and not just on the mats. Make the most of it and have a good time.
  2. Coach Mark McLelland (shout out and congrats on his recently awarded black belt), now professor, recommended the Globetrotters FB group to me and to make a post in the group about my travels to get up to date grappling and travel recommendations. I’d say the same.
  3. Don’t plan too far in advance. Plans can change or you might get delayed.
  4. Prepare for long uncomfortable journeys.
  5. Ask questions.
  6. Embrace the culture wherever you are.
  7. Respect people, respect the places you visit.
  8. Pack a super light gi and nogi gear if you have the space. I got the Globetrotters gi and it’s been great.

Thank you to Josh Collins – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!

Featured Camp Instructor: Arnoud Terpstra – BJJ Globetrotters

Arnoud Terpstra BJJ

Arnoud Terpstra – BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 33
Belt: Black belt
Profession: Jiu-Jitsu coach, Breath coach

Started training (year): 2008
City/country: Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

 

Main achievements in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

I won some medals here and there and trained at some cool places. But nothing comes close to seeing my students grow and succeed. Starting my academy and giving others a place to train and work on themselves, but also providing people a sense of community, a chance to form friendships and see new places is the most fulfilling thing there is. This is my main achievement and ongoing goal.

 

 

 

Which Globetrotters camps have you attended:

I’ve been to two camps so far: Spring Camp in Tallinn and Summer Camp in Heidelberg. So I’m still new to the whole Globetrotters family!

 

Arnoud Terpstra – BJJ Globetrotters instructor

 

Which camp has been your favorite so far?

Tough choice! Both were amazing experiences! It would be a coin toss. Maybe Heidelberg was the slight favorite because I could take my dog with me, haha.

 

Favorite stories/moments from the camps?

So far I had two similar experiences at the camps, where I walked around on the mat and when things suddenly hit you. You look around, taking it all in, seeing hundreds of like-minded people from all over the world doing what they love and connecting with each other. It’s hard to describe, but it made me realize that these camps are something truly special and that it is so much more than just training jiu-jitsu together. And that for me, when I think about it, these jiu-jitsu camps are – strangely enough – not that much about jiu-jitsu but more about other things.

 

Your favorite class/classes to teach at camp? 

So far I’ve only taught one class, on the front headlock and arm-in chokes. People seemed to like that class so it will definitely be an option for Spring Camp. But overall, I’m a huge fan of the ideas that guys like Priit Mihkelson, Chris Paines and Wim Deputter teach. It’s material that I like to teach to my students at home as well. But, me teaching that material at camps would just make a cheap rip-off of those guys so I will come up with something else ;). Hey, I might even teach a class on the twister this year haha. I have to come up with something else!

 

Arnoud Terpstra – BJJ Globetrotters Summer Camp

 

Anything else you want to add to your profile: I am really looking forward to this camp, joining some cool classes, meeting new people and seeing old friends! Also, if you happen to find yourself in The Netherlands, I invite you to pay a visit to our gym. We welcome all visitors and love having students/instructors over from other teams! See you all soon! *does shaka*.

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Arnoud Terpstra – BJJ Globetrotters instructor

Featured affiliated academy: Black Dog BJJ, Wigan

BJJ Wigan

Where is the gym located?
Wigan, UK

How many people train there?
Currently 12

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
Slowly but surely yes! We only opened in November in a new town with zero students!

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training?
Highest is purple, lowest is a fresh white belt.

When did Black Dog BJJ, Wigan open?
Mid November ’23.

Some facts about you:

Name: Alex Riley
Age: 34
Belt: Purple
Profession: Human Factors Engineer
Years in BJJ: 6
Other martial arts: I’ve dabbled for years in Japanese Jiu Jitsu, Kickboxing, and a little Catch Wrestling prior to BJJ
Currently living in: Standish, UK
Originally from: Atherton, UK

Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
Myself and my friend (and coach at Black Dog) Oly were both members of another large affiliation gym in another town. I coached and Oly was a friend and student. I was moving to another town, I also have a daughter on the way so I wanted to train closer home. There were a number of issues with the old gym (Jiu Jitsu politics and other issues) that personally clashed with my beliefs (that I share with BJJ Globetrotters) and also were making me not enjoy my Jiu Jitsu (to the point I almost quit).

So myself and Oly decided to set up a small club so we could continue to train and teach in an open and inclusive community with zero politics and most importantly ENJOY JIU JITSU AGAIN!

Tell us about the people that train in the gym – who are they?
We only have a small membership so far but already have a great mix of people! Ages range from 19-54. We have members who are young lads who look like they could be great competitors if they choose to go that route, and others just enjoy learning, rolling, and meeting new people through jiu jitsu! We’re proud that almost all of our students are completely new to Jiu Jitsu, with no previous experience. They’re learning quickly and we’ve had the chance to bring them into the world of BJJ Globetrotters straight away! A few have already enquired about coming on camps with myself and Oly this year.

Why do they train in Black Dog BJJ, Wigan?
Some have jobs that require physical contact so they initially came to us with self defence in mind, but now have fallen in love with the enjoyment of the sport! Others have come to us wanting to know the “secrets’ or “invisible jiu jitsu” but again once they start training and rolling they learn to enjoy the process rather than just the destination!

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
There are definitely a lot of challenges! As a new gym, it’s really just getting the word out there! We don’t have the finances of bigger affiliate gyms to advertise to everyone. Plus myself and Oly both have day jobs so managing that and trying to run a gym can be exhausting but fun.

How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
There are some very good gyms in the surrounding areas, plus we have a very strong Catch Wrestling pedigree in Wigan so in my opinion the future is bright. Plus with the success of our local UFC champion Tom Aspinall, Jiu Jitsu is in the spotlight. I’m hoping more people are inspired by him and come and give Jiu Jitsu a try, whether that be at Black Dog or anywhere else. It would just be great if more people got into Jiu Jitsu!

What’s the best thing about Black Dog BJJ, Wigan?
We have a lot of fun, don’t take ourselves too seriously (as anyone who’s met us at camps know!), and we’re approachable and have a friendly atmosphere, so anyone can walk in and train.

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
Some people in the BJJ Globetrotters Facebook group may have seen my sarcastic recommendations before! But there are some great areas of natural beauty to go on hikes all around Wigan. The club itself is nestled in the Haigh Estate (a woodland estate near Haigh Hall, originally dating back before the 12th century).

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Thanks for sharing! If you’d like to visit Black Dog BJJ, Wigan you can contact them here.

Featured Traveller: J.P. Maechler – BJJ Globetrotters

J.P. Maechler - BJJ Globetrotters

J.P. Maechler – BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 37

Belt: Purple for a long time :-)

Profession: Mechanical Engineer

How many years in BJJ: Around ten

Other martial arts: I did five years of Muay Thai before starting BJJ and two years of Judo when I was young. (Shouldn’t have stopped Judo… would help me now for BJJ)

Where do you live: Zürich, Switzerland

Where are you from: Zürich

Other fun or curious information you would like to share: I look grumpy but if you get to know me I’m a nice person ;-) I also blog about my travels at www.bjjtravelblog.com

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
I love to travel. In my early twenties I started to explore Europe, and soon I made it to the US. For me it was clear that I needed to see more of the world. So I told myself that I would take every opportunity to travel for as long as possible. Shortly after I started BJJ I went to a bachelor party in Vegas, and right afterwards I went to LA and Miami. A teammate told me I should train while I’m in the US, because especially those places are hosting some of the best in the world. For me it was the first time in another gym, since the club I trained in at that time didn’t allow us to train in other gyms. From that time on it was clear that I would include training to my travels.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
I just came back from a 6.5-week trip through Southeast Asia. I visited Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand, and in total I managed to train in 12 academies during that time.

The next thing planned is a trip to Florida and the Bahamas.

J.P. Maechler – BJJ Globetrotters

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
It’s easier to get in touch with local people while training. I love to learn about new cultures, the history of the countries, and of course I always try local food.

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
At the end of 2022 I went to Central and South America. I planned my trip as far as Mexico, where I met a friend I made once at a BJJ camp, and during my time there (in Guadalajara) I planned how to continue.

I had the phone number of a black belt in Medellin from Christian, so I messaged him and told him I’ll be there in around 2 weeks. He said that I was welcome to train when I’m there, and asked me where I will go before coming to Medellin. I told him Panama, and a second later I had the number of a black belt in Panama City. I then contacted that guy and went to PC for training.

While I was there he also asked me about my plans and I said maybe Bocas del Toro. “Amazing, a student of mine has a gym there and another one has a guest house!” He gave me the number and I was ready for Bocas. In Bocas the trainer gave me a number of a guy in Quito, and in Medellin I got another number for Riobamba. More or less my entire trip took form thanks to the BJJ community. Every place I went, I had someone I knew who showed me the local stuff.

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
In Manaus I trained at the gym of my friend’s sister. Even though we couldn’t really communicate they were super friendly, and after training they asked me to go for an açaí. We drove somewhere where I wouldn’t go on my own. We stopped in front of a garage and I saw a sign I recognized from somewhere. We entered and it was her father. For me it was the first time in my life seeing a Coral Belt. We took some pictures and he invited me for wrestling training the day after. Then we all went for an açaí and the sister also invited me to a party the gym was throwing the next day.

J.P. Maechler – BJJ Globetrotters

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
I try to do something in between. I like to save money and find affordable accommodation, but I can’t stay for too long in a shared dorm. Also I try to avoid long bus rides – for journeys like that I normally end up in an airplane.

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
Always check if you need a visa with your passport, or if there are any other restrictions for entering a country. More than once I had trouble entering. Look in advance for places to train and ask the community for information. Be open-minded and good things will happen.

Thank you to J.P. Maechler – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!

Featured affiliated academy: Abstract Jiu Jitsu, Houston

Abstract Jiu Jitsu, Houston

Where is the gym located?
Abstract is located in Kingwood, about 25 minutes north of Houston TX.

How many people train there?
So we have two parts to the business model. One part is of course Jiu-Jitsu which entails 4-6 year-old classes, 7 and up classes, women only, and adult gi/nogi classes. This would be close to 100 to 120 members. The other side is the acrobatics side where we work with a large amount of competitive dancers, cheerleaders, and gymnasts in the area. This program has between 90 and 120 students as well.

So 200 to 240 or so students total.

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
We have grown a lot the last few months. We recently moved into a space nearly five times as big as our last one. I would say we’ve had 5 to 10 new members added each month.

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training?
White through black.

When did Abstract Jiu Jitsu, Houston open?
2019.

Some facts about you:

Name: Mat Brooks
Age: 34
Belt: Black
Profession: Acro coach and head Jiu-Jitsu instructor
Years in BJJ: 15
Other martial arts: Nope
Currently living in: Kingwood, TX, USA
Originally from: Sugarland, TX

Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
I trained under a local instructor until I was a purple or brown belt. It eventually came to light he was doing plenty of questionable things, so I couldn’t stay. I helped a friend when he opened his own space, but that quickly turned sour due to poor work effort and all the bad stuff Jiu-Jitsu culture can do to someone. I quit at brown for nearly a year. During that time me and my two friends Garrick Chan and Pedro Hermosa stayed in contact and often talked about Jiu-Jitsu. We talked about possibly opening our own classes mostly to train ourselves, since all the Jiu-Jitsu in the area was pretty bad. I linked up with a local karate studio and they let us work out of there from 9:30pm to 11pm two nights a week. That turned into some morning classes as well. Just us training turned into about 10 students before… a flood came and destroyed all of our mats.

We decided then that if we were going to do this we should find a space for lease. We made an LLC and found a spot. Signed a lease and I used the money from my father’s passing to furnish it. That was about one month before Covid. Lockdown shut us down for a month and then we started back up. After a year we expanded into double the space (2k) and worked the next two years building our acro program and kids/adults Jiu-Jitsu programs.

Fast forward to now. We have opened a 10k square foot space that is nearly everything we wanted it to be. I do this full time with two great friends/owners nearly every day. Life is good and moving in the right direction.

Tell us about the people that train in the gym – who are they?
We have a lot of interesting people in this space. From homeschool kids doing Jiu-Jitsu and dance working on becoming a better athlete. Moms and dads of these kids that have started training and become an integral part of this ecosystem. Young adults from several walks of life that train competitively or just to get a workout in. We have a solid group and I can’t say enough good things about them. We wouldn’t be here at all without the local support.

Why do they train in Abstract Jiu Jitsu, Houston?
Health, mental stability, because their kids train. Most just seem to like the community and time they get to spend together.

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
Honestly we haven’t encountered too many aside from people just not liking the contact of the sport. The acrobatics side of this business has really helped give us time to grow. Like all good things there is a specific amount of time needed to grow.

How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
Things are bright in this area. We are lucky to be in a spot easily accessible from several communities. We have a long lease so we are not going anywhere soon. Our goal is to show these kids and adults another outlet to be and live like an athlete aside from the usual means.

What’s the best thing about Abstract Jiu Jitsu, Houston?
How open and welcoming it is. You would feel lovely just walking in and seeing how open and clean it is. The amount of free space really shines here and gives you room to relax.

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
Houston has some of the best Vietnamese, Indian, and BBQ around. There is a ton of food to explore not too far away. Aside from that, Houston doesn’t have a huge amount of nature to see or anything too great. I don’t say that in a bad way, but Houston is for the food experience for sure.

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Thanks for sharing! If you’d like to visit Abstract Jiu Jitsu, Houston you can contact them here.

Featured Traveller: Tomás Barry – BJJ Globetrotters

Tomás Barry BJJ

Age: 29

Belt: Blue

Profession: Software Engineer

How many years in BJJ: I had my first class in September 2017

Other martial arts: I have had very short stints trying boxing and Muay Thai. I have vague memories of doing karate as a kid too. But with the time that I have, I chose to focus on BJJ. Originally it was a way to keep active and meet people when I moved countries.

Where do you live: London, England. I moved here in July 2017.

Where are you from: Dublin, Ireland

Other fun or curious information you would like to share: I have a lot of metal in my body – 18 screws and a pair of rods through most of my spine. I had scoliosis etc. as a kid, so at 16 I had a pretty major operation (two actually) to get it corrected. A bonus was that I became three inches taller overnight! It doesn’t really affect me day-to-day or in BJJ. I know my limits and there are certain movements that are troublesome (my berimbolos are not a pretty sight) but I have found a way to train around it.

I also really enjoy running. It took quite a while for me to actively enjoy it but I have found it to be one of the best things for my BJJ cardio without taxing the body as much as just doing more rounds and now I have it as a core part of my weekly activity.

One day I would like to get into teaching BJJ. If I wasn’t a software engineer I probably would be a teacher. Right now, I’m just focused on collecting as much knowledge as I can from people in the BJJ community.

Tomás Barry – BJJ Globetrotters

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
I tend to travel quite a bit throughout the year. Whether that’s going back to Ireland or somewhere further afield, I wanted to find a way to keep training while I was gone. The first gym I ever went to was CVA JiuJitsu in Edinburgh, and Ben Fletcher who runs it was extremely welcoming. From that experience I realised that I could learn a broad range of styles of BJJ by dropping into gyms when I’m on the road. So far I’ve been to about 35 academies across 23 countries.

I’m not a competitor, but what I’ve found is that by training in a new gym your “game” is put to the test in a similar way (without the pressure of a competition). You will naturally build a game and instincts around, and for, people at your own gym but when you train in a new gym this all goes out the window and you can really see how effective your BJJ is.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
I’ve travelled quite a bit in December and January. I spent some of December in Colombia. After the new year I came back to London as I then had to hop over to the west of Ireland where I was the best man at a wedding followed immediately by a trip out to the Caribbean camp. I’m looking forward to a more settled February (although I do have to travel back to Ireland one more time).

I have two other camps booked for 2024 already – Maine and Camp 100. On top of that I’ll be visiting a friend in Rome and I would really like to do some interrailing around a bit of Europe. You’ll see me posting on the Globetrotters Facebook page looking for suggestions on where to train.

Tomás Barry – BJJ Globetrotters

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
It’s a bit cliche, but I love to meet new people and learn about the history of a place. It really opens your eyes to what the world has to offer. We also have such a strange community that is both incredibly niche but simultaneously spans the entire globe – you can always find somewhere to train.

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
If it wasn’t for Globetrotters I don’t think I would ever have visited the Faroe Islands. That was such a surreal trip and I am very glad that I did it.

One of my favourite memories actually is from Estonia when I posted into the Globetrotters group to see if any other early arrivals wanted to meet me in the local Irish pub (I’m yet to find somewhere that does not have an Irish pub) to watch the All-Ireland Hurling final. I counted 6 different nationalities coming to watch a sport that they’d never seen before. It was really fun to share that experience with others.

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
We’re not all that different from one another – we all want to live happy and fulfilling lives and although that may be an obvious statement, until you see the diversity that this world has to offer and the breadth of people that inhabit it you won’t truly appreciate how special it is to be able to connect with people from all corners of the globe.

When it comes to training, I have found it amazing that there is such a wide variety of people and styles. I can’t think of any other sport where you can do one round with a brand new white belt and the next with a top level professional competitor. It’s pretty wild.

Tomás Barry – BJJ Globetrotters

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
I’m not a budget traveller but I am conscious of my spending. Ideally everything would be cheap but some things are worth opening your budget on and balancing elsewhere – if I have to spend a bit more on accommodation but I’ll save time and money on daily commuting it can work out as a net positive. I’m also more willing to bite the bullet on a ticket/expense while travelling if it’s going to be a now or never type thing. Saying that, you need to find what works for you and what is important to you. Fancy restaurants aren’t my jam but I have had really good experiences with guided tours. If I’m going somewhere more remote where the apartment is essentially just the bed then I will go cheaper.

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
Be open. Even if you visit somewhere that you ultimately don’t like, you will have had an experience. Use the Globetrotter community! A few of the gyms that I have visited have come as a result of me asking in the Facebook group or people that I’ve met at camps. Word of mouth is still the best way to get a recommendation. Try not to spend your time sleeping in – you can do that at home.

Thank you to Tomás Barry – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!

Featured Camp Instructor: Aaron Esdon – BJJ Globetrotters

Aaron Esdon bjj

Aaron Esdon – BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 43
Belt: Black
Profession: Criminal Intelligence Analyst/Jiu Jitsu Instructor

Started training (year): 2014
City/country: London, Ontario, Canada

 

Main achievements in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

Prior to 2020, I would’ve said hitting the jiu-jitsu podium over 40 times at all belt levels, including a bronze medal at the Pan IBJJF Jiu-Jitsu No-Gi Championships was my main achievement. 

Then the global pandemic hit and my perspective changed.  It was during that time that I had the opportunity to open my own jiu-jitsu academy in London, Ontario.

In a million years, I would never have fully appreciated the fulfillment in developing and growing an academy from virtually nothing.  

During the last three years, the amazing people I have met, and the experiences I have been fortunate enough to experience have truly opened my eyes to what achievement really means.

Aaron Esdon – BJJ Globetrotters

 

Which Globetrotters camps have you attended:

Arizona Camp 2021, 2022, 2023.  Maine USA Camp 2022, 2023.  Zen Camp Spring 2024.

 

Which camp has been your favorite so far?

Maine USA Camp 2023 was, without a doubt, my favorite.  Being able to instruct a class at such a special place for so many incredible people is a memory I will cherish forever.  On top of instructing, it was my first opportunity to bring two of my students and show them what makes Globetrotter’s camps so special.

 

Aaron Esdon- BJJ instructor

 

Favorite stories/moments from the camps?

Without a doubt, receiving my black belt from Professor Jay Pages and Professor Matt McPeake a the Arizona Camp in 2023 was a camp highlight for me.  I was floored and has no idea such an honour would be bestowed upon me in front of nearly 300 people.  Being able to share such a special moment with so many friendly and welcoming practitioners truly made it one of the most special moments in my entire jiu-jitsu journey.  

 

Your favorite class/classes to teach at camp? 

 

Aaron Esdon – BJJ Globetrotters USA Camp

Anything half guard is such an enjoyable teaching experience for me.   As a white belt I quickly became drawn to other half guard practitioners like Lucas Leite and love exploring all the details of both bottom and top half guard concepts and techniques.  The position is so fundamental in all aspects of training that I find it best for teaching in the large groups often seen at camp.   This is even true for my favorite half guard class to teach – Octopus Half Guard.

 

Anything else you want to add to your profile: I know it goes without saying, but Platinum BJJ in London Ontario is the most welcoming academy in the area.   If you’re ever in our neck of the woods, please drop by for a class or our famous open mat.   All are welcome!

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Aaron Esdon – BJJ Globetrotters instructor

A picture of me with Kao BJJ in ethiopia

My Experience at Kao BJJ in Ethiopia

Hi there, I’m Heythem from heythemnaji.com.

I spend my time blogging& traveling – visiting different BJJ Gyms around the world, especially in places where you wouldn’t expect to find BJJ.

I’ve been to BJJ Gyms in Uganda, Ethiopia, and Kenya, and I’m currently training in Baghdad, Iraq.

One experience I hold dear is my time at Kao BJJ in Addis Ababa.

At the beginning of 2023, I went to Ethiopia for three months. Of course, I didn’t want to stop training Jiu-Jitsu. So, I tried to find a way to train BJJ in Ethiopia. I looked online to see whether I could find a BJJ gym. I only found one in the whole country: Kao BJJ in Addis Ababa.

I didn’t know what to expect. It was my first time going to a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu gym outside of Europe. So I took a cab and went there.

I’m so grateful I went – they have many dedicated and driven athletes and one of the nicest atmospheres I’ve ever witnessed.

A picture taken within Kao BJJ in Ethiopia. It's a group picture with me and the other BJJ practitioners
The Kao BJJ Gang!!

Training Schedule, Location & Pricing

They train 4x a week – Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. You can check out their schedule on their Instagram site.

They offer both Gi and No-Gi training. But I didn’t have my Gi, so it’s okay to come without a Gi if you don’t have one.

They are located right behind Meskel Square, in Juventus Club. I got a bit lost getting there, but if you get lost, ask the locals about “Juventus Club.” They usually know. Once in Juventus Club, go through until the very end of the complex – there you find their Gym.

And if you take a cab (Feres or Ride are the cab companies in Ethiopia – similar to Uber), tell them to drive you to Meskel Square.

The pricing of this Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Gym is not high if you are used to European or American prices. For exact prices, either contact them on Instagram or Facebook or text Yared (the head coach) directly at his number: +251 92 217 1985.

When I trained there, I discovered that a blue belt training under Kao opened up his own Brazilian Jiu-jitsu Gym in Hawassa, Ethiopia! So I also went and visited them too.

This Gym is much smaller but equally as nice. If you want his contact, contact me or ask the guys in Addis about him.

My Experience at Kao BJJ

I can not speak highly enough of that Gym. They take their training seriously. Their head coach was an American black belt named Colin. Unfortunately, he is no longer there, so the head coach is a purple belt named Yared.

Yared is highly skilled, and he knows how to teach. Even though he knew I would be there for a limited time, he took his time for me. He gave me attention and was super friendly. You can truly feel he’s passionate about what he’s doing.

The Gym is packed on weekdays. Although it is rather small, there’s enough space for everybody.

Their team consists of a great mix of white and blue belts. And from what I saw, the blue belts are legit. They could easily compete with the blue belts in Europe.

I felt welcome there at all times. They were very supportive and welcoming, and I loved training with them. I cannot wait to go back.

The Background of Kao BJJ

The head coach, Yared, has a Judo background and got involved in BJJ (Idk how, good question you should ask him…) He was a blue belt when he started Kao BJJ in Ethiopia.

Then Colin, the American black belt, took over most of the training. Under him, Yared got promoted to a purple belt.

They started small, but over the years, more people became interested. I also saw some non-Ethiopians training there.

Now, they have many great members—many new white belts, some established white belts, and many blue belts.

Now, they are recognized as one of the best BJJ Gyms in East Africa, with many great athletes training there.

The Future of BJJ in Ethiopia

Kao BJJ’s goal is to make Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu more accessible in Africa. They are at the forefront of promoting this beautiful martial art. They are the only ones training BJJ in Ethiopia and want to expand.

They are also cooperating with BJJ Gyms in neighboring African countries. They participate in East African competitions and are heavily involved in the BJJ community.

Their intention is beautiful, and I’m sure they’ll have great success. From what I saw, the future of BJJ in Ethiopia is bright.

Final Words

So, as you can see, I’m a fan. Ethiopia is not easy to navigate at the beginning. I was in a foreign country, which was a lot to process.

But once I went to Kao, things became easier. I met great people, got a lot of guidance and support, and had a great time there.

So, if you’re considering visiting a BJJ Gym in Ethiopia, please do. They are open to everybody and have a great atmosphere.

And if you have any questions, please reach out; I’m happy to help!!

Featured affiliated academy: Principle Jiu Jitsu, Wales

Jiu Jitsu Wales

Where is the gym located?
We are located in Cardiff, South Wales. We operate out of one of the largest gyms in Cardiff and it’s called Ufit.

How many people train there?
We are still a new club but currently we have 9 regular members who are mostly new beginners.

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
We have only been open for a few months but the future is bright. Ufit is a training ground for fitness competitors in Powerlifting, Crossfit, and other disciplines.

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training?
Highest is 4 stripe brown belt and lowest are brand new white belts.

When did Principle Jiu Jitsu, Wales open?
At the start of October 2023.

Some facts about you:

Name: Jason Yean
Age: 39
Belt: Brown
Profession: Sports Masseuse and Rehabilitation
Years in BJJ: 12
Other martial arts: Tae Kwon Do, Ninjitsu
Currently living in: Barry, South Wales
Originally from: Born in South Wales but grew up in Malaysia.

Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
I have been looking to start my own gym for a couple of years. It was difficult finding a location, but I was determined to find the right one instead of just teaching for the sake of it. My patience paid off and the location that I’m in at the moment couldn’t be better. We are centrally located in Cardiff and we have natural footfall from experienced competitors in other sports and disciplines.

Tell us about the people that train in the gym – who are they?
The people who train are people who have been going to the gym their whole lives. They were looking for another challenge to complement their training, and they could not have picked a better martial art. We do also get the odd boxer coming through. We get people from other clubs coming to train with us as well. We welcome everyone to train.

Why do they train in Principle Jiu Jitsu, Wales?
They train to challenge themselves. They don’t realise it yet but they’ve been bitten by the BJJ bug.

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
The main challenges for me personally are trying to feed my students information in a timely fashion. They are all mostly brand new starters, so I’m taking my time working through the fundamentals so that they can start with good habits.

The financial side is not a concern, as I charge the gym an hourly fee to teach there. This is an avenue I would suggest to anyone wanting to start a new academy.

The other challenge is managing different personalities and egos. It is imperative to keep the vibe positive and friendly, so working through those issues at all times is so important.

How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
I see it to be a bright one. There are not that many academies in our area and we are a city. I have plans to grow it and make it the best that it can be.

What’s the best thing about Principle Jiu Jitsu, Wales?
We leave our egos at the door and we keep it about Jiu Jitsu

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
Wales is an absolutely beautiful part of the world. We are surrounded by the coast, mountains, and beautiful valleys. Cardiff has got a fantastic night scene and it’s very easy to get around. The Brecon Beacons is a magical trek and insight into the nature that Wales is capable of. We have massive waterfalls and great beaches as well. I am happy to direct any earnest traveller – just get in touch with me.

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Thanks for sharing! If you’d like to visit Principle Jiu Jitsu, Wales you can contact them here.

Featured Traveller: Melissa Franson – BJJ Globetrotters

Melissa Franson - BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 37

Belt: Blue

Profession: Pharmacist

How many years in BJJ: On and off for 6 or 7 years

Other martial arts: I started with aikido, then switched to judo and BJJ. We’ve started doing some boxing/combatives/MMA in the last couple years at our gym. I competed in Irish Collar and Elbow wrestling at the Faroe Islands camp.

Where do you live: Pittsville, WI, USA

Where are you from: Pittsville

Other fun or curious information you would like to share: I also enjoy going hunting. It’s nice knowing where my food comes from how it was handled through the whole process to get to the freezer. It also allows me to spend time outdoors.

Melissa Franson – BJJ Globetrotters Camp in Faroe Islands

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
During most of the first year of COVID, I wasn’t able to train much because of lockdown and then things being crazy with work. I don’t remember how I first found the BJJ Globetrotters website, but I kept looking at the camps and they looked so fun. Eventually I just signed up. I said not being able to travel or train for a year made me do something crazy and sign up for my first camp.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
I just got back from a short trip to Yellowknife, Canada. It took me three flights to get there and three flights back, with only two days in Yellowknife, but it was a great trip and definitely worth it. I got to go dog sledding and I met some amazing people. This was my first time trying out matsurfing.

The next trip I’m planning is to the spring Zen Camp. I plan to go a few days early and stay a few days after the camp so I can do some touristy stuff and see the area. Friends have given me some tips and suggestions, but I don’t have anything set yet.

Melissa Franson – BJJ Globetrotters Camp

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
There are so many beautiful places around the world. I enjoy being able to see and experience those places. I’ve met some pretty cool people during my travels. And the food, trying different kinds of food… you can’t say you don’t like something if you’ve never tried it.

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
When I went to the Maine Camp, I walked into my cabin the first day and the first person I met lives two hours from me. We get together once in a while and have gone to other camps together since. It’s crazy to travel that far to meet someone from home.
The first time I met Alan Titone was at the Arizona camp. He did a class on setting goals and then taking steps to actually accomplish those goals. One of my goals was to go to Sweden and to find relatives that are still living in Sweden. So when I went to the first Faroe Islands camp last year, I decided to take an extra week since I was already in Europe to go to Sweden to visit the country (or one of the countries) my family came from. I was able to meet some distant cousins and even stayed with them for a couple days while I was there.

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
How easy it is to travel between countries in Europe.

Melissa Franson – BJJ Globetrotters

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
Sometimes, though not quite as much as I used to when I was a poor college student. When I look at plane tickets, I’ll look at different airports and different days to see where I can find a good deal, but sometimes it’s worth paying a little more for a direct flight. I’ve stayed in hostels instead of a hotel so that I can spend a little more on experiences.

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
I like to look up things to do, but only book one or two things ahead of time. Then when I get wherever I’m going, I ask locals what they recommend doing or seeing. They can tell you if the things you find online are worth doing/seeing or if there’s something else that’s better/less crowded.

Thank you to Melissa Franson – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!

Featured Camp Instructor: PJ Lucey – BJJ Globetrotters

PJ Lucey - BJJ Globetrotters

PJ Lucey – BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 42 years young
Belt: Blackbelt under John Kavanagh
Profession: School Teacher

Started training (year): 2009
City/country: Killarney, Co Kerry. Ireland

 

Main achievements in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu:

Multiple times Irish national Champion

Multi NAGA medalist

IBJJF London Open Gold Blue/Purple

British Open Medallist

IBJJF European Gold Blue

Founder and head coach of SBG Killarney

Now BJJ Globetrotter Instructor

PJ Lucey – BJJ Competition

 

Which Globetrotters camps have you attended:

Iceland Camp 2022 (Participant)

Winter Camp Austria 2023 (Instructor)

Beach Camp Parnu, Estonia 2023 (Instructor)

Summer Camp Heidelberg, Germany 2023 (Instructor)

 

 

Which camp has been your favorite so far?

It’s not an easy task to select one. Each camp is very different but if I was pushed, I would choose the Winter camp in Wagrain, Austria. This was my 1st camp as an instructor, so naturally it will always stand out for me. On top of this the camp is amazing, as all the participants sleep, drink, eat, socialise, and train under the same roof, so for me that is something special.

 

PJ Lucey- BJJ Globetrotters Summer Camp

 

Favorite stories/moments from the camps?

I have loads of fond memories, stories and moments from my camp days.

Highlights like momentarily holding the camp record, “most rounds sparred” was cool. Until I was quickly dethroned in the next camp by Alexander Neufang. Drinking a bar dry at the winter camp is always going to be a proud moment for an Irishman. Midnight techno bunker open mat in Austria was up there too. Hanging out with the crew at the beach in Parnu, an Apreol Spritz in one hand and pizza in the other is hard to beat.

As an instructor, people coming up to you, saying that they loved your class, or they are having success with your workshop material is always going to be great. The globetrotter’s camp has given me a springboard to meet new people, travel and get invited to gym/academies all over the world. For this I am very grateful.

 

Your favorite class/classes to teach at camp? 

 

PJ Lucey – BJJ Globetrotters Beach Camp

I have taught 3 classes to date.

  1.     Passing the upright/ sitting guard, Riverdance style.
  2.     Guard passing from HQ- surfing and floating.
  3.     Cooking your opponent from side control.

I got the most positive feedback and follow up requests for the cooking workshop so I will choose that as my favourite for now.

I love it when people get in touch with me so If anyone wishes to contact me about any of my classes material, workshops etc please don’t hesitate to message me through the social media channels. SBG killarney or @coachpjlucey.

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PJ Lucey – BJJ Globetrotters instructor

Featured affiliated academy: NOVO Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Ecuador

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Ecuador

Where is the gym located?
Ambato, Ecuador.

How many people train there?
52 people including kids, teenagers, and adults.

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
Maybe two or three new members each month.

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training?
The highest are 2 black belts and the lowest belts are white.

When did NOVO Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Ecuador open?
We opened the gym on April 15, 2022.

Some facts about you:

Name: Francisco Melendez
Age: 33
Belt: Black
Profession: Industrial design engineer
Years in BJJ: 11
Other martial arts: Judo (orange belt)
Currently living in: Ambato, Ecuador
Originally from: Ambato, Ecuador

Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
The idea of opening a Jiu Jitsu academy came from a friend with whom I’d trained since our first day as white belts. In addition to having the pleasure of teaching and transmitting all our knowledge acquired during all this training time.

Tell us about the people that train in the gym – who are they?
Most of our members are adults who I have known since my time as a student. Everyone, despite having their professional jobs, takes their time to train. This is something that motivates you as a teacher every day. Among them I have doctors, engineers, lawyers, chefs, and judo/MMA/karate teachers who want to learn another type of discipline.

Why do they train in NOVO Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Ecuador?
The majority of people who train are here to relieve stress from day-to-day life. Other people train to improve their health and physical condition. In the case of children, parents enroll them to develop discipline in their little ones, and so they can learn self-defense.

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
I think that the main challenge of opening a martial arts gym is the economic part, because you don’t know what kind of reception it will receive. And in this area there is a general lack of knowledge about Jiu Jitsu because it is a relatively new discipline here, which is why you have to teach a love for it.

How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
From my point of view, I see that Jiu Jitsu is going to grow a lot in this area, because we have many people who compete nationally and internationally and make the name of the city stand out.

What’s the best thing about NOVO Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Ecuador?
The best thing for me about my gym is the space. It is a very spacious place in addition to having a small area for physical conditioning. On the other hand, it is the camaraderie – the friendship that each of the people who make up the team have where we can go out with each other and share moments on and off the tatami.

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
The city where I am is a very quiet place, but we are close to a very touristy place called Baños de Agua Santa, a city where many people from abroad come for its variety of attractions.

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Thanks for sharing! If you’d like to visit NOVO Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Ecuador can contact them here.

Featured traveller: Anna Fischer – BJJ Globetrotters

Anna Fischer - BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 28

Belt: Blue

Profession: I’m studying Plant Sciences at the University of Helsinki.

How many years in BJJ: 5

Other martial arts: I’ve trained Krav Maga for 3 years.

Where do you live: Helsinki, Finland

Where are you from: A small village in the south of Germany

Other fun or curious information you would like to share: I’m really into plants. I’m a trained gardener. Cacti are my favourite plants – they’re really fascinating and have the big advantage that they can survive without water or any care for several weeks while I’m traveling.

I also really like to learn languages. So if you see me at some camp and want to practice some fancy language, I’m in! Besides German and English I can offer a bit of French, Finnish, Portuguese, and Spanish (in that order) and if I should ever have time I want to learn Swedish and Dutch. And some of the Cyrillic alphabet. The problem is I don’t have time.

Anna Fischer – BJJ Globetrotters

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
I’ve always liked traveling. Before I even knew what Jiu Jitsu was, I did some solo trips to the German and Austrian mountains and to Portugal. Then I figured out that Jiu Jitsu exists and stopped taking longer trips because I didn’t want to miss training. I was in a dilemma. I didn’t know back then how open and visitor friendly the Jiu Jitsu community is. Then I was randomly talking about single leg takedowns with a guy from my gym and afterwards he sent me a link to a BJJ Globetrotters video that covered that topic. That’s how I first heard about the Globetrotters. Learning that I can go to a Jiu Jitsu camp for a whole week and train as much as I want and at the same time explore a new city or country was amazing. I signed up for my first camp and knew immediately that this is how I will spend my holidays from now on.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
My most recent trip was to Rome to participate in the Rome Open and the European Nogi championships in October together with my partner. Well, let me put it like this: I should work on my armbar defence. My partner did better and brought home gold. It was nice to catch some sun before the Finnish winter.

I’ve planned two more trips for this year: one weekend trip to Berlin to participate in a Grappling Industries tournament, and then I will visit my family in Germany over Christmas. There’s a small gym nearby which I’ve already visited a few times, so I’m looking forward to meeting the group again. And then I want to visit the two gyms where I trained before I moved. It’s been almost a year since I was there last time. I hope somebody trains there at that time of the year. But I’m sure I can organize the key and some motivated old training partners.

Anna Fischer – BJJ Globetrotters

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
I like to get to know new countries and their culture, cities, people, and nature. Traveling is always a little adventure and a break from whatever might be stressful in life. And traveling also teaches me a lot about myself. Not everything goes as planned and difficulties can pop up everywhere. Finding solutions for all kind of problems makes you grow a lot as a person.

I’m a very introverted person and always had problems with socializing and talking to strangers. When traveling within the Jiu Jitsu community, things are a bit easier because there are so many like-minded people. From these travels, I’ve learned that it’s worth pushing myself out of my comfort zone for a while, and nowadays I enjoy meeting new Jiu Jitsu people from all around the globe.

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
I stayed in a Japanese village in the middle of the Polish nowhere and trained on the hugest matspace ever. I wrestled with a Viking and hiked in a country where hot water shoots out of the ground. I had a wrestling match in an Estonian bog. I rolled at an open mat from midnight till 3 in the morning until I almost fell asleep while trying to choke people. There are so many great memories. But one memory sticks with me particularly…

When I started training Jiu Jitsu, I used to train in two very small gyms in southern Germany – the only ones in the whole area. In the beginning it was only me and a handful of big, skilled guys most of the time. I didn’t mind that and really enjoyed training, but I had serious doubts that I will ever reach a somewhat reasonable level, or even get a blue belt. Then I went to my first Globetrotters camp and there were so many women, mostly blue and purple belts. I had never seen a woman with a colored belt before. I was quite intimidated, but they were all so nice and trained with me and gave me tips. I was really looking up to them.

Years later, I eventually made it to blue and was asked to teach classes in one of my old gyms and also in two other small gyms in Germany I have visited. There were these white belt women everywhere and at some point I realized that they are just like I was back then, but the roles have switched. Now I can pass on the inspiration I once received. In these moments I always have to think back to that overwhelming experience at my first camp and I’m so grateful for the Globetrotters community.

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
The most surprising thing so far happened at the Globetrotters Fall Camp in Tallinn in 2021. It was my second camp, and my first time in Estonia. I had signed up for a group dinner and was curious to meet new people, but at the same time I was also a bit nervous because I’m not very good at talking with strangers and often end up saying no more than a few words. And then there was this guy at my table, wearing a t-shirt with an “Introverted, but willing to discuss Jiu Jitsu” print. So I talked with him. Over the next few days he kept asking me out for dinner, and we trained and rolled together quite a few times. And well, now I’m writing this text from Helsinki because I moved in with this guy. I ended up living in a country I probably wouldn’t have been able to point out on a map before the Tallinn camp, and coming here has been one of the best decisions in my life so far.

Anna Fischer – BJJ Globetrotters

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
Kind of. Travelling and training is where I’m willing to spend my money, but since the university doesn’t pay me to study plants, I try to look for cheaper options when there are alternatives. Booking flights and train tickets well in advance can save a lot of money. I’ve also slept on some airport benches because the options with an overnight layover were much cheaper. Not sure if I can recommend that though – they were not the most comfortable nights. The airport in Helsinki was really okay, but Riga and Munich were not so much fun. I also try to travel light. Often hand luggage is enough and much cheaper when flying.

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
Go out and discover the world. Just do it. There is so much waiting for you out there. The destination doesn’t have to be the other end of the globe. Sometimes amazing experiences are waiting in the next town just a few minutes away.

Try to train with many different people from many different gyms. That has helped me a lot to improve my Jiu Jitsu and it’s fun.

Don’t blindly trust everyone. Often I watch people train or roll first before I pair up with them, especially when there’s a big weight difference.

Always bring enough tape. It can fix everything. Your body, shoes, tent, phone… everything.

Thank you to Anna Fischer – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!

Featured affiliated academy: Lake Atitlán BJJ Guatemala

Lake Atitlán BJJ Guatemala

Where is the gym located?
San Marcos, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala

(Locally we organize under the umbrella name “KEFI Collective” as a way to brand ourselves beyond just “the dudes who do Jiu-Jitsu.” Makes it easier to find us when you’re in the area.

But for all intents and purposes, “Lake Atitlan BJJ” works just as well.)

How many people train there?
We have about 4-6 core members who train regularly (and who actually live here long enough to train regularly). This number is constantly fluctuating since it’s a small town with lots of travelers coming through.

We live in a small town in rural Guatemala. So formalized martial arts is hard to find out here. But one thing we do have is lots of travelers. We’re constantly posting about our trainings with the intention of catching any traveling practitioners who have an itch to train.

It works great during the high season when lots of travelers are around (Nov to Apr). But come low season (May to Oct), it’s mostly back to our dedicated core members.

Is the gym growing – if so by how many new members each month or year?
We’re not a gym. It functions more like a structured open mat session.

We’re simply a group of martial arts how train together, and welcome anybody else how has skills/experience to share.

What are the highest and lowest belt grades training in Lake Atitlán BJJ Guatemala?
We’ve had the full range of belts training with us. Just recently we had a brown belt stay in town for a few months. He helped out a lot in teaching techniques.

When did the gym open?
~Spring 2021

Some facts about you:

Name: Alphi Quitevis
Age: 37
Belt: White belt (my skill level is probably closer to blue belt, but since we don’t have a formal gym/school, there aren’t belts being earned)
Profession: Business Development Manager
Years in BJJ: 3
Other martial arts: MMA (a little bit from everywhere: Muay Thai + boxing + wrestling + judo), escrima. I was in the US Marine Corps for 8 years and trained in various modalities of combat and defense, including multiple weapons.
Currently living in: San Marcos, Lake Atitlán, Guatemala
Originally from: Chicago, USA

 

Please tell us the story of how your gym came into existence
In the first half of 2021, Jonathan Landa and his friend Milton (blue belt) threw out a post on the local Facebook community group, to paraphrase, “Anybody want to do Jiu-Jitsu?” All they had was a single set of puzzle-piece fitness mats. Two weeks later, I answered their post and joined the training. Another week later a giant blue belt Scotsman joins (who would later put us onto BJJ Globetrotters).

With other people coming in/out of the mix, we then start rolling twice a week, every week. Open mat style.

We did it for 6-7 months straight, just a handful of us. The blue belts helped spin Jonathan and I up to speed (I had some grappling experience from my time in the Marine Corps, to which we transitioned to more BJJ-specific training). We soaked up whatever experience travelers had to share. Blue belts, purple, brown, black. They’ve all come through. Couple of Globetrotters too.

With exception of periods wherein the core group breaks away due to travel (since many of us are foreigners on tourist visas in Guatemala) this “collective” style of training continues.

As mentioned earlier, Jonathan is a big part of why we still train. He’s the one that started organizing people under the KEFI Collective.

Tell us about the people that train in the gym – who are they?
Our core group is an international group of misfits. Jonathan is local Guatemalan; he’s the bulldog. Fitness trainer background, strong af. He’s the backbone of this whole operation. Has an iron half guard that damn-near impossible to pull out — like a bulldog.

We have an Italian guy, Edo. BackgroA/boxund in MMing, with professional cage experience. A big dude, Italian Stallion. Has a mean overhand left, but on the ground he’s quite fluid.

We have Timo, French guy. Tall and long, slender limbs. Years of Muay Thai experience who helps us when we train MMA/striking on Thursdays. He teaches us Muay Thai, we teach him ground game. Has a beautiful question mark kick.

There’s Medhi, another French guy. Years of BJJ experience, Animal Flow trainer. Another beast of a man. Loooong arms which he takes advantage of by specializing with the darce and anacondas.

Until recently, we had a brown belt — Tom — from the US, train with us regularly. He had to go back to the States, but he plans to return in the Spring to stay for long term. Older gentleman in his 50s with average height and build, but could put a hurtin’ on any of us young bucks with his big ol’ head. He gives Edo and Medhi a run for their money.

Why do they train in Lake Atitlán BJJ Guatemala?
I suppose it’s the same for most people on the Warrior path: learn skills/stay sharp, challenge ourselves, stay in shape, camaraderie, and most importantly, have fun.

What are some of the challenges of running a BJJ gym in general, and in your area specifically?
Getting enough people to train has always been the challenge since day one. It’s in part to the fact that we’re in rural Guatemala, and that a lot of people who train are only traveling through (whether only for a few days or a few weeks).

For our core group, since we are so few, we have to rely on our training partners to stay committed to training and show up in order to have a solid session.

We have a rule of thumb: if at least three people are available for a training session, we’ll open up the space and train.

A majority of the time it’s no problem, but we all have different lives. Some weeks we may have some guys out to due to travel, or work, or injury, etc.

It’s always possible to train 1 on 1, but having various people to roll with is a lot more fun.

Social media marketing helps to bring in new bodies.

Again, this isn’t so much an issue in the high season, when lots of travelers come through.

How do you see the future for BJJ in your area?
The more the merrier.

ONE IDEA: Jonathan owns a local hotel business. It would be interesting to have some kind of work exchange for traveling practitioners (higher belts) to come and stay for a few week/months to teach us things in exchange for, say free accommodation and a place to train while they’re traveling. We’d have to figure out those logistical details, but it’s an interesting idea to play with.

Aside from our group, there are other BJJ/martial arts practitioners around our area. So I only hope to continue spreading martial arts in all its forms in the area.

There are other grapplers on the other side of the lake. But since boat travel across the lake isn’t really convenient for regular training, they don’t come through as much. It would be nice to grow the group AND training facilities to the point where we can host each others’ groups, say once a month, to have friendly training sessions together.

Additionally, there’s an MMA fighter in the area (trained in Gracie Barra lineage; aiming for the UFC) who wants to eventually build a formal martial arts school and have other fighters come through. His organizational philosophy is quite different from ours, as you might imagine from his time with Gracie Barra, but as long as we have more and more practitioners in the area we see it as a benefit.

What’s the best thing about Lake Atitlán BJJ Guatemala?
We train hard, kickin’ each other’s asses, but we’re all pretty laid back because of the relatively informal nature of the training.

And we live in a jungle paradise.

What would you recommend Globetrotters to see in your area apart from the inside of your gym?
We live on an insanely beautiful lake surrounded by three volcanoes. A simple Google search of “Lake Atitlan” will turn up endless sights and activities to see.

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Thanks for sharing! If you’d like to visit Lake Atitlán BJJ Guatemala, you can contact them here.

Featured traveller: Nathan Featherstone – BJJ Globetrotters

Nathan Featherstone - BJJ Globetrotters

Age: 33

Belt: Purple

Profession: Martial arts and fitness coach

How many years in BJJ: 12 (with time off due to injuries and lockdowns)

Other martial arts: Irish stick fighting (Doyle and Antrim style), Dog Brothers martial arts, Collar and Elbow wrestling.
Previously karate, boxing, muay thai, MMA, Judo, HEMA, and capoeira.

Where do you live: Dublin, Ireland

Where are you from: Wicklow, Ireland

Other fun or curious information you would like to share:

  • I teach both BJJ and stick fighting in my gym. With my stick fighting I teach two styles of Irish stick fighting, which is a martial art indigenous to the island and very unknown to many. With my background in combat arts I wanted to test this material out and make sure it worked, which led me to the Dog Brothers who do full contact sparring bouts with sticks and various other weapons. Picture MMA with sticks and a fencing mask. This has also made me work really heavily on stick grappling, which is a really interesting way to look at BJJ and grappling.
  • I run a Youtube channel all about Irish history and martial arts called the Rambling Kern. I have done all sorts of historical recreations since my teens. which led me to combine all of my various obscure hobbies into one place.
  • I am a pretty big nerd and like to take on a new pursuit every year or two. Growing up in a rural area I don’t want to miss out on things now I’m all grown up and able to do things. As a result I’ve trained in a lot of martial arts and recently got heavily into learning knife throwing, which has been way more complex than I ever thought. I had a friend pass away during Covid who used to play Dungeons and Dragons, and I started playing with some of his old group at first as a way to remember him. Ever since I’ve gotten hooked and am big into playing on my time off.

Nathan Featherstone – BJJ Globetrotters

 

Tell us what inspired you to travel and train?
From a very young age I always wanted to grow old and be like Master Splinter from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Seeing a documentary about Helio Gracie and seeing him rolling at such an old age made me want to take up BJJ. From there I wanted to travel and learn BJJ. With Ireland being such a small island, early on that was the best way to learn, but now we have some of the best instructors around. This curiosity also made me want to discover if Ireland had its own martial arts, and I found that out it did. This really pushed me to want to visit other places and learn about their past and travel and train with those I could.

Tell us about your most recent travel and your upcoming travel – where have you been and where are you going?
I’ve just gotten back from teaching Irish stick fighting and Collar and Elbow wrestling in Florida. As part of the trip I got to teach at a yearly Escrima meet up, which was amazing getting to learn so many unique martial arts in one place. Next month I’ll be going to Holland for my first actual break in a few years, and I’ll hopefully get in some training while there.

Nathan Featherstone – BJJ Globetrotters

What are the things you enjoy about travelling?
I love to learn about a country’s past. Not just the old buildings, but the land, wildlife, foods, and cultures. It’s a real bonus for me to learn about their martial past as I love that stuff. Things like local martial arts styles, wrestling, or fencing are all really fascinating to me. Getting to train with local people often opens up some really fun chances to see and experience parts of a country only a few people get to see.

Can you give us some examples of experiences you had that makes it worth traveling and training?
It’s hard to pick out any single moment due to all of the weird martial arts I have had the chance to train in old fortresses and castles, on top of mountains, in swamps, and just experience some amazing parts of the world with really cool people. On my last trip alone I got the chance to swim with dolphins and manatees, which was incredible.

What has so far been the most surprising experience for you when traveling?
I’ve found for me it’s coming across people in really far-flung parts of the world who know all about some obscure town in Ireland. Or, even more surprisingly, knowing someone you know, which I have had happen.

Nathan Featherstone – BJJ Globetrotters

Are you a budget traveller – and if so how do you plan for a cheap trip?
Yes, I tend to travel on a budget. Travelling light and staying somewhere I can cook at least a few meals often saves me a lot of money and allows me to spend more on worthwhile things like training and experiences.

If you were to pass on travel advice to your fellow Globetrotters, what would it be?
Look up. Often there are some really interesting things above us in cities that can be hard to spot if you’re focused on the streets below.

Thank you to Nathan Featherstone – BJJ Globetrotters for making this interview!